Doug Harper

Doug Harper
IVSA President

I’m Professor of Sociology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and have taught visual sociology at several universities in the US as well as the University of Amsterdam and Bologna. I’ve been involved with the IVSA since the organization formed in the early 1980s; am the founding editor of the journal, and have been to all but one IVSA meeting.

In my most recent book, VISUAL SOCIOLOGY (Routledge 2012) I make a case for a distinctively sociological approach to the study of imagery. In fact, while I value the multi-disciplinary character of the IVSA I am committed to our academic grounding in sociology.

I have published six visual ethnographic studies, three with co-authors. My most recent book, with Francesco Mattioli of the University of Rome, is a study of the contemporary interpretations of fascist symbolism in Italy. My first book, GOOD COMPANY: A TRAMP LIFE has been translated to French and Italian, and is now in its third edition. In other books I have developed photo elicitation as a method that both invigorates sociology and connects visual methods to phenomenology and other sociologies of the subjective. So while my topics of my books have varied, my methods have always concentrated on the visual.

It is an honor to be President of the IVSA and I shall do all I can to contribute to the work of those who preceded me.



    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker

  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins


    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs


    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu


    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris


    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman


    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht


    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine


    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp


    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston


    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson


Alondra Nelson

RT @veralchang: Thrilled to be at the Rachel Tanur Prize for #VisualSociology ceremony @isa_sociology #isa18wcs (w/ @VonkLevi, Judy, Micha…

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